Tony Becca ON THE BOUNDARY
Two of cricket's big names, Wally Edwards, chairman of Cricket Australia, and N. Srinivasan, president of India's Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), met in Singapore recently and among other things, discussed the possibility of the International Cricket Council (ICC) changing its revenue distribution policy with Srinivasan wanting it to reflect India's presence in the game.
The present policy calls for an equal split of ICC revenue among its full members, but the BCCI, instigated by Srinivasan, wants this changed to one which would better reflect India's contribution to the game.
Srinivasan, who is also a member of the ICC governance committee and owner of the Chennai Super Kings Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise, is supported by the BCCI's secretary, Sanjay Patel, who has said that the change was put before the ICC last year, that it was legitimate and that it was being discussed.
"It is a legitimate right of the BCCI" and "it is nothing but a just and fair right that we are asking for. It is not any muscle-flexing," said Patel. The BCCI, at present, controls some 70 per cent of the game's revenue and to support its claims, it says that it distributes some 72 per cent of its own revenue annually to its 27 affiliates in equal proportions.
Cricket Australia has not shown its hand on the issue, at least not publicly. It has, however, made many changes since 2012, including how it distributes its own money.
In 2012, as part of many governance changes, it moved from each state receiving an equal share to each state getting revenue as needed and as decided by Cricket Australia.
The discussion in Singapore also saw Edwards and Srinivasan discussing the disparity between the money received by lower ranked full members and the top associate members.
That discussion in Singapore, however, followed a plea to the ICC to give more of its money to the smaller countries by Michael Atherton, a former England captain. Atherton called for the ICC to level the playing field when it comes to the distribution of the game's wealth, or else. That was a far cry from the call of Srinivasan.
According to Atherton, who was speaking recently at an ESPNcricinfo event in Brisbane: "There are four rich countries - India, England, Australia and South Africa - and then a lot of ailing nations, and what you are getting is a two-tiered system at the moment."
Atherton said a two-tiered system with India, England, Australia, and South Africa at the top and others like New Zealand, the West Indies and Sri Lanka at the bottom cannot be good for cricket; not with one set playing four and five Test matches at a time and regularly at that, and the others two or three Test matches at a time and only now and then.
He should also have mentioned the inability of the poorer countries to pay for the Decision Review System (DRS) and the reality of different decisions appearing in the game, depending on who is playing and where the game is being played, when the system is not in place all the time regardless of which teams are playing.
The ICC itself has said that the inability of the poorer countries to pay for its use, or for its proper use, is one of the reasons why the DRS is not in full use, and in use in every Test match.
Citing the IPL as making an impact on teams like New Zealand and the West Indies, Atherton said that players from these countries are keen on going to play in the IPL simply because of the money; and that affects their teams - especially the West Indies team as the IPL season clashes with the West Indies season.
The clash makes their players unavailable for some tours, or it makes them late in arriving for duty, it affects their preparation for a Test match series and that is not good for the marketing of the game, according to Atherton. Which player, in this day and age, would refuse to play in the IPL and refuse the sort of money that the IPL pays in an effort to play Test cricket and to represent his country? I can think of no one, except, of course, if his country can pay him a comparative salary which would make the loss, and the many gains of representing one's country, worthwhile.
As they say, all the time, that except for a few patriots - a few like Nelson Mandela - patriotism cannot go to the supermarket. A little more money from the pool of the ICC would help the financially weaker countries to pay their players better, those whose skill deserve it, to keep them at home as well as to generally lift the standard of their game overall.
West Indies' stand
What is the West Indies' stand on this issue, the issue re the distribution of cricket's money? The West Indies were once ranked among the big boys. Where money is concerned, they were once, or twice, ahead of everyone. They once held the post as president of the ICC, whenever they spoke, people listened, if nothing else and although they never made much money on home series, they always got good money whenever they went on tours.
Those were the days when the West Indies were well paid for tours to places like England, Australia, and India because of their skill and their market value; and the days when the West Indies paid little or nothing to teams coming here.
Those days came to an end in the late 1990s when the ICC members voted 8-2 to change the system to one where the visiting team is paid for the tour with no share of the profits and the home team kept all other revenues. The West Indies, as far as influence and money are concerned, are not now numbered among the top teams. They are only respected for old time sake, They do not make as much money as they used to do from tours and because of the size of their grounds and the economy of the region, plus the level of their play, they still do not make money from home series.
West Indies cricket, or territorial cricket, needs money to develop young cricketers throughout the region, to keep the clubs alive, to pay coaches, to prepare pitches and to provide gears for young players. It needs money to run competitions and it needs money to pay cricketers, among other important things. The West Indies Cricket Board president and its CEO need to be heard on this issue and so too a few of the former great players. They need to talk about West Indies cricket and money and they need to get some money into West Indies cricket. And it can be done as the West Indies team, West Indies cricket, is still probably the most attractive team in the game.
West Indies cricket needs money to return it to its former glory and in order to make some money, it needs to form an alliance to get more of cricket's money with teams like New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh.